a norwegian road trip

by Dianna

Vi tok en tur i Norge.

I had a short break between my spring semester and my two-week intensive course (which I am now teaching), and that break found me taking the trip to Norway I’ve always wanted to take. I’m getting ready to leave Hungary in just over a month, and as I look back at my year here, I’m astonished at the number of places I was planning to visit to that I haven’t gotten around to yet (thankfully, I still have a little bit of time). A big part of that is that I’ve gone to Norway three times since November. So has it been worth it? For me, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

This trip saw me doing things I’ve wanted to do for years: I slept in an old wooden house a stone’s throw from a fjord, nestled in between the mountains. I went to an 800-year-old wooden stave church, allegedly the best preserved in Norway. I hiked up to the towering Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, a rite of passage for many Norwegians. I saw some of the most beautiful natural scenery I’ve ever seen. And I finally made it outside of Oslo.

I know this is a Hungary blog, but humor me while I share a few pieces of my Norwegian road trip.

It began in Oslo on syttende mai, Norway’s constitution day. There is no better place to be on syttende mai than the Norwegian capital, in my opinion. I wanted to enjoy the day to the fullest and so I left my Nikon behind at the apartment. Norwegians don their national costumes, or bunads, for the holiday. Not being in possession of a bunad (as I am not Norwegian and they’re quite expensive to boot), I decked myself out in red and blue and carried around a flag most of the day. Even though I didn’t have my Nikon with me, I did grab a few photos with my cat camera. This one features Rådhuset in the background, and you can see many Norwegians in bunads walking by.

After Oslo, we headed northwest, up into the mountains and toward fjord country. Our next stop was Lærdalsøyri, but on the way we stopped by Borgund Stavkyrkje (Borgund stave church) for a tour and some photos. It was truly incredible. A lot of meticulous care has gone into maintaining the church. On the way to Borgund we also ran into some still-snowy landscape up in the mountains.

Borgund isn’t far from Lærdalsøyri, a sleepy little town off of a branch of the Sognefjord (the largest fjord in Norway). It was as beautiful as I hoped it would be.

gamle Lærdalsøyri, the old part of town full of old wooden houses

I couldn’t help grabbing this photo, as Potter is my surname. Sadly, Potter’s kafe and pub seemed to have closed.

Lærdal was the only place it rained on the entire trip, and the only time we needed jackets. Even more surprising was that once we hit western Norway, the weather was uncharacteristically sunny and beautiful. And warm! Bergen was our next stop, and its reputation for rain rivals that of its sister city (and my home), Seattle. The Bergen I saw was a sunny paradise on the sea, however. We were truly lucky with the weather.

On the way to Bergen, we stopped for a few minutes in Flåm, an often photographed little town (also on the Sognefjord). It turned out to be a kitschy little cruise ship stop full of ridiculous tourist shops and the like, but it was a good place to stop for a hot chocolate and the views were incredible.

Flåm

leaving Flåm

Sunny Bergen! This is the view from the top of Fløyen, one of the seven mountains surrounding the city.

It’s sometimes sunny in Bergen (Bryggen, pictured above, is a UNCESCO World Heritage Site)

The drive from Bergen to Stavanger means two ferry rides (so many fjords!) and they were beautiful. Stavanger is a funny and somewhat charming little town, but it feels less like Norway than the other parts of Norway I went to. It’s an oil industry hub, so there’s a lot of oil industry wealth, too, which makes it a little bit like the Houston of Norway. But I liked it and would visit again. Its proximity to Preikestolen is a huge perk, too!

ferry #1 from Bergen to Stavanger

Stavanger

Stavanger

Now, Preikestolen could be its own post. If you’ve never heard of it, you should go ahead and take a look at the wikipedia page. It’s a sheer cliff, the top of which is about 2,000 feet above the Lysefjord. Standing on top of the rock, you can look out over the fjord at the tops of the mountains. It is an incredible view. Being situated on the side of a mountain, as it is, you have to hike for about two and a half hours to get up there (and then you have to hike back down to get home – it’s a workout). It is absolutely worth it, though.

hiking up (and up and up) to Preikestolen

the rock itself and the view from the top!

After Stavanger and Preikestolen, we looped back down around the southern tip of the country, staying outside Kristiansand, and then in Oslo for one more night (it also happened to be the night of the Eurovision final – Norway came in dead last). I’m grateful to have had such good weather, to have spent time with friends, and to be so lucky to see all that I got to see. Norway continues to live up to my hopes and expectations, and I can’t wait to see more of it.

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